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January 3, 2018

Food Insider: Viles Arboretum offers chance to get off couch on Super Bowl Sunday

Courtesy / Viles Arboretum
Courtesy / Viles Arboretum
Participants in the Viles Arboretum's 2016 Table Tour enjoy warm food on a cold day. The Super Bowl Sunday event, in its 14th year, raises money for the Augusta organization while getting people outside in the winter.

Ah, Super Bowl Sunday. The food, the friends. The snowshoes.

Wait. What?

A Super Bowl Sunday tradition that's going strong into its 14th year may not be what winter couch potatoes envision for the day, but it may be just what they need before settling down in front of the TV later in the day.

The Viles Arboretum's annual Table Tour in Augusta is Sunday, Feb. 4 — hours before a certain football game that will be holding many people's attention.

"The whole idea of Table Tour is to offer a fun culinary-focused social event on Super Bowl Sunday so people can get outdoors, have fun, eat some amazing foods, exercise, all with time to get back in time for the big game," Mark DesMeules, executive director of the arboretum, said on Tuesday.

The event also raises money for the arboretum — participants pay $20 for tickets ($18 for members) — and it helps familiarize people with the arboretum's exhibits and trails.

The tour begins at 11 a.m. and food is served until 1 p.m. Post-tour desserts and beverages will be served until 2 p.m.

The organization bills the event as "a great way to get some fun exercise before settling down to watch the football game."

Hot food, warm participants

The 224-acre Viles Arboretum, off Hospital Street in Augusta, includes botanical collections and an outdoor art trail, which has a variety of sculptures. The organization also hosts interactive and hands-on programs with a focus on natural history.

In the tour, participants hike, snowshoe or cross-country ski 4.5 miles, stopping at food stations along the way.

Too cold to think about that right now? One warming thought is that there will be a bonfire and chairs at the food stations, hot chocolate at the opening gate and "all the desserts you can eat," hot coffee, beer and wine indoors at the Visitors Center at the end. Entertainment, accompanied by the band Piggery Road (a nod to the road into the site).

DesMeules said the event has grown significantly over the years, "ever since we switched to gourmet cooking and figured out how to keep the food hot and the participants warm."

Focus on food

The food is provided by chefs who volunteer to cook for the event. Some board members also make food, DesMeules said.

There's a soup and chowder table — all the soups and chowders are homemade. There's also a turkey table, complete with fixings, and a third with barbecue or Mexican food. All of the tables also have a vegetable option.

Businesses involved range from locals like Riverfront Barbeque & Grille and The Liberal Cup to Hannaford and the Olive Garden.

DesMeules said additional items are being added as the countdown to Super Bowl Sunday begins.

"The response from area restaurants is just amazing and generous, and they all find time to be creative and generous in support of this annual fundraiser," he said.

He said organizers aren't concerned about the focus of potential participants being elsewhere if the Patriots end up in the Super Bowl, which kicks off at 6:30 p.m.

"No matter who is playing in the big game, there seems to be the same level of fun and enjoyment by all," he said.

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